There were emotional scenes as the future of a beloved  youth club and community hub was saved just in time for Christmas - after raising a whopping £26k in only three weeks.

The Prout Bridge Project, a safe space for hundreds of youngsters across west Dorset, launched an urgent appeal at the beginning of the month in a bid to raise £20,000.

The Beaminster-based charity, which started life as a youth club in 2016 in response to government cuts, has seen a phenomenal growth in popularity and is now much more than that; offering activities, facilities and services for people of all ages living in the town and the surrounding area.

More than a hundred young people pass through its doors each week to attend youth clubs and holiday activities, many of whom were happy to get stuck in fundraising.

It offers crucial mental health support to the community and works hard to reduce loneliness and social isolation with a huge selection of activities.

To do all this, the project's running costs total more than £100k a year, all of which is achieved through fundraising.

Back in 2020, its significance to the local community meant it was awarded a £2,000 grant from Newsquest Media Group, publisher of the Bridport and Lyme Regis News.

Prout Bridge Project director, Paula Tuff, was overwhelmed by the response and declared it ‘the best Christmas present’, and, thankfully, fears they would need to cut back on important services have been put to bed.

“I can’t put into words how grateful we are to everyone who donated," said Paula, who has 30 years' experience in youth work in Beaminster.

"It’s a difficult time of year for a lot of people and to see how generous people have been is overwhelming. This was all in three weeks - I can’t thank everyone enough.

“This money will give us some breathing space in the New Year while we continue to apply for grants and plan more fundraisers. It’s getting harder and harder to secure funding through grants these days, as there is so much demand, so this money will make a world of difference.

"There was a very real danger of us having to drastically cut back on a lot of what we do – including mental health support as we just wouldn’t have been able to keep up.”

Lola, 13, has attended the Prout Bridge Project for two years and is currently a volunteer and band member. “It is a fun place to be,” she said.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Lola and charity director Paula Tuff

“You come and learn the skills and learn to interact with the children. Before I came down here I couldn’t talk to people but now I can interact really well.”

Ellie, 12, moved to the area in March and has been visiting ever since. It’s been key in helping her settle in to the area and feel welcome.

Lisa-Marie Dodson-House, 28, has been a regular at the project since she was eight years old. She has been a teaching assistant for several years and is currently training to become a primary school teacher.

“The project has been really important to me,” said Lisa. “If I hadn’t started here, I wouldn’t have my skills and experience. It kind of started my career and my love of working with young people.”

The appeal remains active and people can still donate. At the time of writing, it had reached £26,093.

“Any additional funding means we can keep the Prout Bridge Project charity open for longer,” said Paula.

“It will all be spent on running essential services into 2024. From all of us at the project, please know that we will continue to work tirelessly to make sure every single pound that you have all donated will be put to good use supporting our community in west Dorset.

To donate, search 'Support our Future: Prout Bridge Project for 2024' on Crowdfunder.